COLUMNS / BILLY MASTERS

Barbara Walters Exits Stage Left, Debbie Reynolds Cleans Out Her Closet and Clay Aiken Inches Closer to Congress
Billy Masters
6/3/2014

A LEGACY OF DAYTIME CHATTER

I began writing this column in August 1995. Two years later, I moved to L.A., since work necessitated me being in Hollywood more and more. My apartment had a pullout sofa and a television. On my first L.A. morning, ABC launched a new talk show, and throughout my professional journey I have started every day with the ladies of The View. In fact, if you look on either side of my (now much larger) TV, you will see every single one of the show’s mugs.

Last week, Barbara Walters left not only The View, but television. She left with a caveat—“If Fidel Castro or a former president dies, I would do something for ABC News, where I’ll keep an office.” Her penultimate installment of The View was particularly memorable. Cleverly called “Déjà View,” it featured each and every co-host of the show. Not only that, but chronological seating dictated that sworn enemies found themselves side-by-side (Debbie Matenopoulos and Star Jones, Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck). The show was short on sparks but high on nostalgia, culminating in a memorable final segment. Coming full circle, the original cast was once again sitting around the original table (with, I should add, their original mugs). For better or worse, these ladies together changed daytime talk shows forever 

CELEBS TAKE THE STAGE

As luck would have it, a couple weeks ago I met two of my role models—Rex Reed and Rona Barrett—both at the same event! I would have loved to snap a photo between the two of them, because surely I am their love child. Nonetheless, meeting them individually had to suffice, along with thanking them for inspiring me. This trajectory took place at the annual STAGE benefit. The Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event celebrated 30 years of raising money and awareness for AIDS Project Los Angeles with a salute to the movies. This year’s gala brought out a glittering array of celebs, such as Betty Buckley, Debby Boone, Patricia Morison, Richard Chamberlain, Mitzi Gaynor, Donna McKechnie, Carole Cook, Helen Reddy and Mary Wilson. Hosting the evening was TMC’s Robert Osborne, who also interviewed some luminaries, such as Shirley Jones.

I hate to play favorites, but a standout of the evening was Jason Gould and his gorgeous rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight.” While spending time with him and his luminous aunt Roslyn Kind, Jason confessed he was under the weather and wasn’t sure how he sounded. He had nothing to worry about. The ageless Patricia Morison recreated “I Hate Men” from Kiss Me, Kate, complete with clanking plates. At 99 years old, she is a marvel.  

Arguably the show’s highlight was the painstakingly recreated dance number of “Begin the Beguine” performed by David Engel and Jeffrey Scott Parsons. Not only was it terrific, but they more than held their own while dancing in front of video footage of the original number from Broadway Melody of 1940 with Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell. The man holding the whole show together was John McDaniel, who not only was the music director but also did the arrangements. Bravo to everyone involved. Needless to say, quite a few photos and videos can be found on BillyMasters.com.

PUMP IT UP

I also attended the opening of Pump Lounge, an addition to the restaurant empire of Lisa Vanderpump and Ken Todd. This eatery is in the heart of West Hollywood in a space where virtually no business has been successful for close to two decades. To be sure, Pump is quite stunning, but while the numerous low-hanging trees are lovely to look at, they’re extremely difficult to maneuver around if you’re taller than Peter Dinklage. Given the large number of people at the VIP opening, I was surprised to only recognize Ross Mathews and Lance Bass, but the eye-catching staff more than made up for it.

ON THE AUCTION BLOCK

Far more thrilling for me was the special reception thrown by Debbie Reynolds to get a last glimpse of her movie memorabilia before it hit the auction block. Reynolds recently held the last of three auctions for her collection, and it was a bittersweet moment for the film icon. As she told me, “On one hand, it’s been my life’s work to gather and protect all of these treasures, so I’m sad to see them go. On the other hand, I can’t take them with me!” I was quick to note that Reynolds appeared positively youthful next to some of these ancient tchotchkes. Daughter Carrie Fisher was there, as were Ruta Lee and Alex Trebek. Frank DeCaro was given a mission from his hubby, TV Guide correspondent Jim Colucci—get a quote from Trebek. Since DeCaro is known for his popular Dead Celebrity Cookbook, I told him he should really be asking the people assembled for recipes. It’s never too soon to plan for Volume 2!

A MANHUNT INDEED

A judge down in the Florida Keys abruptly announced his retirement once his Manhunt profile became public knowledge. Judge David Audlin made it clear that no one pushed him to leave his post four years early. “I’m looking forward to my constitutional rights being restored—my right to privacy and to be left alone in my private life.” That’s all well and good, but when a judge is promoting 6.5 inches on a gay hookup site, the gloves are off.

POLITICAL IDOL

This leads perfectly to a story about Clay Aiken, a man inching towards a life in politics who has also had his private inches exposed online (you can check them out on BillyMasters.com). The American Idol alum got a bit closer to his goal of “Congressman from North Carolina” when his closest opponent in the primary suddenly died! Keith Crisco, 71, died after a fall in his home. Aiken, who was only ahead by a few hundred votes, issued a statement calling Crisco “a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant.” Privately, I suspect Aiken’s grief sounded more like this: “Why, God, why? Why didn’t this happen to Ruben Studdard?”

When Clay is talking about Crisco and it doesn’t have anything to do with sex, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. Some weeks, this column just writes itself, as you’ll see at BillyMasters.com, the site where you can find my writings alongside a healthy collection of celebrity nudes. If you have a topic you’d like me to tackle, send it along to [email protected] and I promise to get back to you before Cheri Oteri replaces Barbara Walters and nobody notices! So, until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.


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